Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) trustees have decided not to adopt the “9 for 10” model, instead instituting a less structured approach.
In light of financial constraints faced by school divisions across Alberta, WCPS reviewed its priorities and identified ways to respond to financial pressures while maintaining high quality learning environments for all students.
One proposal identified was a modified “9 for 10” school year calendar. The proposal was essentially that students would have school for nine out of every 10 days. The 10th day would be used for professional development for staff.
Another key element of the proposal would be cost efficiencies created by an aligned calendar throughout the division (primarily reduced substitute teacher and transportation costs.)
“This was a difficult and challenging discussion for the Board relative to the budget that was designed by the ministry of education,” said board chair Lorrie Jess. “The new financial reality compels all of us to analyze our current educational structure and still attempt to provide those services we have come to expect in our school division. We trust that our stakeholders will understand the difficult position that has put our board in and accept that tough decisions come with our leadership role.”
The board has decided to mandate the alignment of the differentiated days that currently exist in the school division. School sites had determined their differentiated school calendar relatively independent of other schools in the division. While it has been recommended that schools co-ordinate their calendars with other schools in their area, it has not been mandated that this differentiation process be consistent across the jurisdiction.
Under this new proposal schools could still differentiate according to the hours they have amassed through transportation structures but would do so by placing these days onto a standardized framework. This would allow for greater inter-school collaboration and reduce the need for substitute teacher time for divisional professional development opportunities. Some savings would accrue in the transportation system as well, although to a lesser degree than with a true “9 for 10” calendar.
The guiding points that led to this decision were:
• There were concerns around the division’s ability to provide a strong learning environment at the high school level if it went with the “9 for 10” model. This was based the site’s ability to meet the 1,000 hours of instruction in a manner that benefited all students.
• The impact on the division’s support staff under the “9 for 10” model might be too onerous at this time. A more in-depth analysis would have to be undertaken to ensure that the proposal did not unfairly affect their working status in the division.
• It was also recognized that approximately 12 schools were already at (or close) to a “9 for 10” configuration, a fact that allowed the division to feel confident that it could align the differentiated days, provide the collaborative framework and not negatively affect its high schools.
• The board saw this as an interim or exploratory step to a more structured calendar in the years ahead. It did see the merit in a proposal such as the “9 for 10” model but felt that the school division may need more time to analyze its potential and investigate some additional concerns.